Trail of the Spider: The Suppressed Racial History of the American West

 

Trail of the Spider: A Passage Through Limbo

Directed by Anja Krschner and David Panos (2008)

Film Review

Trail of the Spider is a short feature film in which the suppressed racial history of the American West becomes a metaphor for the racial landscape of East London in the grips of property developers.

The somewhat surreal plot takes place in 1870, at the end of the Civil War and “Indian Wars.” the last days of the “unassigned lands.”

Instead of the Lone Ranger, the hero is Man With No Name, an African American Buffalo Solder* who changes sides and fights for the oppressed instead of the US government.

*The original “Buffalo Soldiers” were members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the Negro Cavalry by the Native American tribes they fought. 

 

How the Protestant Reformation Laid the Groundwork for the UK Socialist Labour Party

The Protestant Revolution – Part 1 The Politics of Belief

BBC (2007)

Film Review

More stuff I should have learned in school. Either I was absent that day or I wasn’t paying attention. .

In this documentary historian Richard Jones-Nerzic explores the major political upheaval brought about by the 1517 Protestant Reformation, led by German monk Martin Luther. The film asserts Luther’s willingness to challenge the authority and corruption of the Catholic church unleashed a flood of revolutionary ideas, as well as political upheaval that lasted centuries.

At the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had immense political power, with authority to levy taxes, raise armies and wage war. Moreover there was already growing dissent in the Church about the sale of indulgences. For a price, anyone could purchase a guarantee of salvation for themselves, family members and even dead people.

In 1521, Luther was hauled before Holy Roman Emperor Charles, V, declared a heretic and banned from the Holy Roman Empire. Sheltered by a sympathetic prince, he grew a beard, Luther disguised himself as Squire George and spent his time translating the New Testament into German. At the time, the Church only allowed the Bible to be printed in Latin, Green or Hebrew. They maintained ordinary parishioners could only understand scripture if a priest interpreted it for them. Luther also made use of the newly invented printing press to churn out pamphlets promulgating his views.

Buoyed by these ideas, as well as heavy taxes and bad harvests, in 1524 German peasants staged a revolt, the largest in Europe prior to the French Revolution.

Jones-Nerzic goes on to trace Henry VIII’s split from Rome in 1538, followed by the Scottish Puritans, under John Knox, breaking  from the Church of England in 1630. In 1642, the split would culminate in the English civil war led by Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell.

The film then explores the close links between the radical idealism (emphasizing equality and justice) of the nonconformist Protestant movement and Britain’s Socialist Labour Party, formed in 1900. It makes the point that the founders of Britain’s Labour Party came to socialism via “the Methodist chapels of Yorkshire and Wales,” rather than Marxism.

 

Southern Discomfort: Rewriting Civil War History

Southern Discomfort

Directed by Mark Patrick George and Dana Williams (2016)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the white supremacist-linked Civil War monuments and reenactments that continue to dominate life in the Southern US. After touring the South for four years, the filmmakers identified 706 public monuments or statutes glorifying leaders of the Southern Confederacy, as well as 109 schools, 80 counties and ten military bases named after Confederacy heroes. Many Southern cities have streets named after prominent Ku Klux Klan leaders.

Most of the film focuses on Civil War reenactments that occur throughout the South. The reenactment movement developed during the sixties and seventies, in reaction to federal school integration laws.

In addition to interviewing numerous reenactors, the filmmakers interview national park rangers, local officials, Civil War historians and Black residents. The latter deeply resent the use of their tax dollars to glorify what they view as an increasingly white supremacist agenda.

Although most reenactors cite “educating younger generations about history” as their chief motivation for participating in Civil War reenactments, the latter portray a version of history that is more mythological than factual. Not only do they deny that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery,** but they totally erase the role of over 200,000 slaves who abandoned their plantations to fight for the Union Army and Navy.

Moreover it’s also clear that recruiting new members for overtly and covertly white supremacist “heritage” groups is another major goal of these reenactment festivals. One organization, the League of the South, actively promulgates the Great Replacement*** rhetoric espoused by white right terrorists like Dylan Roof and Brenton Tarrant.

The League of the South has its own paramilitary group actively working towards Southern secession from the US.


*Blacks comprise 30% of the population of Lake City Florida, host to the annual Olustee Reenactment.

*Most reenactors give “states rights” and “economic differences” as the true cause of the “War of Northern Aggression.”

**The Great Replacement claims there is a conspiracy to exterminate the white population of Europe and the North America by replacing them with people of color.

The Civil War in Libya

The Lust for Libya: How a Nation Was Torn Apart Part 2

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

Part 2 of Lust for Libya links the 2011 “uprisings” in Libya to the Arab Spring uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

It makes no mention of the CIA role in fomenting and arming the rebellion in Libya, along with the more peaceful 2001 Arab Spring “color revolutions.” See The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

I was surprised to learn the 2011 NATO bombing campaign was spearheaded by French president Nicolas Sarkozy (whose 2007 election campaign was financed by Gaddafi) and former UK prime minister David Cameron. It was they who approached the Obama administration as a third partner.

In total NATO bombers embarked on 20,000 sorties and 67,000 total bombings to virtually destroy Libya’s civilian infrastructure. With US intelligence support, rebel fighters captured, tortured and executed Gaddafi as he was fleeing Tripoli. With his demise, Libya became a failed state as it descended into a civil war between rival armed militias.

Libya’s National Oil Company and its central bank continued to operate, and for some bizarre reason the new de facto government (National Transition Council) granted a salary to all past and present militia fighters – a move that clearly fuels the ongoing war.

Libya has held a number of parliamentary elections since 2011, but none has been able to control the militias or effectively rebuild state institutions.

In 2015, the UN created the government of National Accord, which meets in Tripoli, although any government institutions that continue to operate are run by militias. A CIA-linked exile General Khalifa Hafter has created a rival government run by the Libyan National Army and which has seized the oil ports and all oil production.

France, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are all supplying Hafter with weapons, in open violation of a UN arms embargo. Italy backs the Government of National Accord because they control natural gas resources Italy depends on – and, to some extent, the flow of African refugees departing from Libya for Italy.

Part 2 begins at 47 minutes.

The Lust for Libya: How a Nation Was Torn Apart

The Lust for Libya: How a Nation Was Torn Apart

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This is a two part documentary about the 2011 US/UN invasion of Libya, which triggered its descent into civil war.

Part 1 is about pre-independence Libya and Muamar Gaddafi’s rise to power during the 1969 revolution. Prior to Gaddafi’s 2011 overthrow, Libya had no history as an independent state. It was continuously occupied from ancient times, by Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Italians and eventually a French/British and a British/US consortium.

Inspired by the pan-Arab movement started by Egyptian president Gamal Nasser, in 1969 Gaddafi led a successful revolution to oust the pro-US government. He went on to close the US/UK military bases and nationalize their oil companies and the Italian banks that controlled Libya’s economy.

With the 1973 oil embargo, the value of Libya’s oil doubled overnight. Gaddafi used the country’s new found wealth to rapidly build up Libya’s decaying infrastructure, as well as to provide free health care, housing and education (through university) for all residents.

Following Nasser’s death in 1970, Gaddafi sought to enshrine himself as the “man of the masses” who would unite the Arab world. In this role, he supported numerous international liberation struggle, including the Irish Republican Army, the African National Congress and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He also developed a bizarre and grandiose habit of claiming responsibility for terrorist bombings (including CIA/NATO Operation Gladio false flag bombings*).

In 1973 he revoked the Libyan constitution and ruled independent decree. Although he established thousands of Jamahiriya (people’s committees), they had no real power independent of the Libyan  military. The analysts interviewed here view Gaddafi as a benevolent dictator who was genuinely concerned about the Libyan people but lacked any education or training in setting up democratic institutions of power.

Worried a prolonged Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) would hinder US access to Middle East Oil, the US would launch its first covert regime change operations against Gaddaffi in 1981. These included a 1981 assassination attempt (by bombing his palace) in 1981, as well as an effort to frame Libya for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am passenger jet over Lockerbie Scotland.

The incident would lead to UN sanctions against Libya from 1992 until 2003, when Gaddafi signed an agreement he would end his nuclear program, assume financial responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and assist the CIA in fighting global terrorism.


*Operation Gladio is the code name for a CIA/NATO backed paramilitary network that carried out thousands of false flag terrorist operations in Cold War Europe. The goal of these operations was to justify repressive government legislation against grassroots anti-capitalist organizers. It was exposed in a 1992 BBC documentary. See 1965-75: The Decade that Nearly Dismantled Capitalism

 

A 241 Year Fairy Tale About American Democracy

war is a lie

 

War is a Lie

By David Swanson

Just World Books (2016)

Book Review

In War is a Lie, author David Swanson presents extensive historical evidence that the US has never been a democratic republic – that this is a carefully crafted fairy tale the ruling elite has been telling us since the late 18th century. He also demolishes the myth that warfare is deeply ingrained in human nature. Ninety-eight percent of people are deeply opposed to killing and warfare and require extensive brainwashing to commit to either. Although the species homo sapiens is 60,000 – 1000,000 years old, they have only engaged in war for the last 10,000 years. Many human civilizations (including the people of the Arctic, Northeast Mexico, Australia and Nevada’s Great Basin) had no experience of war prior to contact with Europeans. Among the more astonishing facts Swanson reveals is that 80% of the US troops drafted into World War II declined to kill enemy troops.

Starting with the Revolutionary War, War is a Lie is full of delightful little factoids that are omitted from high school and college US history courses.

Among the high points:

Revolutionary War

The two real goals of the US War of Independence were to 1) remove the King’s representatives from positions of power in North America and replace them with colonial merchants and bankers and 2) to overturn the British ban on western expansion (via the slaughter of indigenous tribes). The Continental Army consisted mainly of poor farmers who were forcibly conscripted, brutally mistreated and rarely paid (even though General Washington was the richest man in the colonies. During and after the war, numerous “democratic reforms” were enacted to motivate these the “recruits, with all being promptly nullified.

War of 1812

Contrary to what we’re taught in school, the US started the War of 1812, with the intention of invading and occupying Canada. They lost this war.

Mexican-American War (1846-48)

Another war about western expansion that resulted in the US annexation of Texas, California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and parts of Colorado and Oregon. Many Irish and other European immigrants fought for Mexico.

Civil War

Swanson maintains the Civil War was also about western expansion and whether the North or South would control the new western territories. Swanson stresses that Lincoln could have easily freed the slaves without launching a war (other countries did so). The Emancipation Proclamation was issued well after the war started, as public sentiment turned against the war due to high casualties. Swanson reminds us that the Proclamation only applied to states that had seceded – slavery remained legal in Union states.

World War II

Swanson details the deliberate Wall Street strategy of arming Hitler to neutralize the Soviets, highlighting orders US pilots received not to bomb German munitions factories owned by Americans. He also writes at length about the Nazi eugenics experiments that originating in the US under the guidance of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Harrison. I was intrigued to learne the Rockefeller Foundation funded Josef Mengele’s experiments on Jewish prisoners. Swanson attributes Roosevelt’s eagerness to enter World War II to increasing working class militancy in the US (which the compulsory draft ended) and fears of full blown insurrection. He also discusses numerous efforts Hitler made (as late as 1940) to negotiate a peace settlement with the allies – which they rebuffed.

Debunking the Notion of Good Wars

In the following video author David Swanson discusses his book War is a Lie. As a long time anti-war campaigner, Swanson’s purpose is to demolish the widespread belief that some wars (eg the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War II) are “good wars. He carefully dispels the lies ruling elites have told us about each of these wars, simultaneously clarifying that each had the true purpose of expanding American empire.

With numerous historical examples, he demonstrates that war was totally unnecessary to win American independence (eg the US launched the War of 1812 as an excuse to invade Canada.). And not only was the Civil War unnecessary to end slavery, but slavery didn’t end in the US until World War II. (See 1941: The Year Slavery Finally Ended)

Swanson is extremely critical of environmentalists who are too timid to condemn war as the major destroyer of the environment and civil libertarians who condemn torture and assassination without condemning war as the root cause of these atrocities. He’s also highly critical of activists who bemoan that the corporate elite is too powerfully entrenched to be crushed by a mass movement.

Unlike most presentations, the Q&A’s – which start at 31:00 – are the best part of this video.